Susan Taylor (48) from Stirling is a former NC in Early Education and Childcare (Academic year 2013/14) and HNC Early Education and Childcare (Academic Year 2014/15) student who was based at Forth Valley College’s, Falkirk Campus.
Susan, said: “After studying at Forth Valley College I continued life as a full-time student studying for a degree in Child and Youth Studies at the University of Highlands and Islands in Perth. This is wholly on-line learning that I do from home and something that requires a great deal of self-discipline and motivation. I am just approaching the end of my third year, having attained a second year straight entry because of my HNC from FVC.
“I hope to finish in May with my degree under my belt and then I think I will have a break from study for a wee while. I still have the option to go on at some point and study for the Honours degree with just one more year of study, but after four solid years, I don’t feel able to give it my best just now. Never say never though, I may return to it one day…
“I chose Forth Valley College because it was the closest college to my home that offered the course I wanted. I had originally applied to the FVC Stirling Campus for a qualification to be a classroom assistant. However, I received a telephone call telling me the course had been withdrawn because there were very few classroom assistant type roles available at the end of study.
“This, I view, as the college taking responsibility to arm their students with current and up to date teaching in readiness for applicable job roles. Instead, I was offered the Early Education and Childcare NC course but it would be at Falkirk. After much thought, I decided that I would try the course at Falkirk, even though it wasn’t exactly what I set out to do or where I set out to do it. I’m really glad I did because after the first day, I really felt part of a much bigger thing, as far as staff and students were concerned.
“The facilities in the college were more than sufficient for our needs for this course, with everything from relevant and up to date learning materials, books, journals and access to computers in the Learning Resource Centre, to the well-stocked early years ‘materials’ stock cupboard.
“The lecturers worked hard as a team to provide as wide a remit to our learning experience as possible, with something to suit everyone. I feel I discovered an awful lot about myself in the two years I was there. Being pushed well beyond my comfort zone with certain aspects of my learning was always balanced by boundless positivity and encouragement from my lecturers.
“If I thought I couldn’t do something, I usually found out that I actually could, with a bit of gentle persuasion and mental hand-holding from the Early Years team. Inevitably, although very necessary, some of the core modules could easily have been a little ‘dry’ and difficult to study, but the lecturers tried hard to find new and inventive ways of teaching and encouraging our own research skills to make them as interesting and memorable as possible.
“Sometimes we would work alone, sometimes in little groups and not always the same ones. So we were encouraged to work alongside people whom we perhaps didn’t know that well until, in the end, we had a really close-knit learning group that helped and encouraged each other no end. Just the kind of leg-up you need when you are flagging!
“Having gone on to study full time at university, the study skills I picked up along the way at Forth Valley College have given me an excellent grounding and provided me with the confidence to study at this higher level. I very much appreciate the importance of the ‘Core Skills’ module in the NC year as it covered invaluable study techniques I have needed at university, such as research skills, interpreting statistics, writing in a clear analytical and logical way.
“As well as the direct learning and placements in both the NC and HNC courses, there were also opportunities to look into the job market and what might be available as we approached the end of our studies. The opportunities to engage in workshops held by the early education teams of the local councils were excellent and added another dimension to our learning…somehow, making it more realistic.
“As I am currently still in education, I am hoping I will be able to say that stepping onto that first rung of the education ladder at Forth Valley College - after 28 long years away - has given me the confidence and self-efficacy to strive for what I want. The support and reassurance I have received along the way has helped me prove to myself that nothing is impossible and I certainly never thought I would be just five months away from finishing a degree, having only set out to complete a 12 month course to be a teaching assistant.
“The college have managed to incorporate the key skills one might require for further study or employment into their curriculum and it sometimes only becomes clear how necessary and relevant this is when you leave and try and find your own way… armed with abilities and coping strategies acquired at college.
“The team in this department certainly seem to be very dedicated to their students and they all want them to succeed in their studies. There is a very diverse range of backgrounds to be found in the staff, which is always a huge help as there is usually someone to ask, even the most obscure questions. The learning environment is very flexible and the staff are very approachable, perceptive to students’ needs and, in my experience, willing to go above and beyond to try and help wherever they can.
“I would say that if you are dithering with the decision, ‘Shall I…Shan’t I…?’ Go for it! Forth Valley College was certainly the right place for me to return to study and is the real reason I have managed to go places I never thought I could! Thank you!
“I really enjoyed the two day a week placement opportunities on both the NC and HNC courses and discovered they were invaluable in putting class-room based theory into practice. The course I am currently studying at university is all theory based with no placement opportunities at all. I find this quite a different and intense approach after college and so I volunteer when I can, at one of the schools I did my placement at and am still in touch with staff there. This helps me put into practice what I am learning and see how things work in the ‘real world of work’.”
Summing up her experiences at Forth Valley College in three words, Susan, said: